Many companies, associations, and individuals are rapidly trying to understand virtual events, how they work, and if they are worth investing in. Before this year, virtual events were generally live-steaming versions of live events. They were not very engaging, and most people didn’t consider them as a substitute for an in-person event. Overall, adoption was low, and they were not gaining traction very quickly. This year the novel coronavirus changed everything, and suddenly virtual events are becoming the norm, not the exception.
Like in-person events, virtual events can vary dramatically from each other. There are a lot of options ranging from an organized series of Zoom sessions to a multiday event with a keynote speaker, lively breakout sessions, and high paying sponsors. There are definite drawbacks to not having a live event, but there are also a few advantages.
More Presenter Engagement
Recorded presentations have a lot of value. First and most obviously, they have fewer technical difficulties. More importantly, they free up the presenter to engage with the audience while the presentation is airing. The presenter can run poll questions, answer real-time questions, and add links or other features that might add value for the audience. As in-person speakers, they are busy talking and can’t engage, but with a recorded session they can.
More Audience Engagement
At an in-person event, there is little audience engagement. The speakers generally present at the audience. Speeches are not intended to be interactive. Sometimes there is a question and answer period at the end, but that time is limited. Only a few questions get answered. Plus, many people are not comfortable getting up and asking questions in front of an entire room. The internet makes that process easier. The audience can ask a question as soon as it pops into their head. The speaker or a moderator can answer in real-time as well. Plus, online tools like poll questions are a great way to keep attendees engaged during the talk.
Data You Can Sell
For many groups, events are an important source of revenue. A virtual event as a revenue stream is still an unknown model. Unknown doesn’t have to mean unprofitable. There are huge sponsorship opportunities in online events. Because the event is online, it is very easy to collect data on who attends, how long they attended, where they engaged, what they were interested, etc. This is all data that the conference organizer can share with potential sponsors to help them target their ads directly at the people they are most interested in engaging with. This data trove is going to prove to be very valuable as online events progress.
Most platforms enable attendees to effortlessly sync the conference’s activities with their electronic calendars. This seamless process makes it easier to make the sessions and it solves the time zone problem, especially in the seed industry when people travel from around the world to meet, do business, and exchange ideas. The computer takes care of the time zones for you!